The San Francisco 49ers signed guards Jonathan Cooper and Mike Person this offseason, and welcomed Joshua Garnett back to practice after he spent last season on injured reserve. Veteran Laken Tomlinson, acquired in a trade at the end of training camp, returns to compete for a guard position as well.
Tomlinson appears to be locked in at left guard for the time being, but there are still some question marks. Cooper is finishing up rehab of January MCL surgery, and did not take part in on-field team drills at minicamp. He is expected to be good to go for training camp. In his absence, Garnett and Person have split first team drills at right guard.
On Wednesday, Pro Football Talk posted an article detailing a report that Garnett could end up cut in training camp. Their headline is not incorrect, but I would argue it is at least a little bit misleading. Before you click there, know that it is based on a Matt Barrows mailbag answer. He was asked his pick if the 49ers have a surprising cut. His response:
The most prominent player in danger of being cut? Guard Joshua Garnett. He’s going to have to hold off two players the 49ers acquired as free agents, Mike Person and Jonathan Cooper. Person currently is the team’s backup center, which seems to dramatically improve his roster chances.
This is a logical explanation of the situation. The team signed two free agents that play his position, and one of them offers versatility that you want from a potential backup. Garnett can only play guard, and he is a holdover from the previous regime.
Garnett has worked to develop his body to fit into what Shanahan and company want to do. On the one hand, they might decide he is not suited to play in their more regular zone scheme. On the other hand, by all accounts, he has shown a dedication to doing what they ask. Coaches appreciate that, and while it is possible he will end up elsewhere, this is certainly a point in his favor for the time being.
So will Garnett get cut? It would not be the most surprising thing to happen by the end of training camp, but we really won’t know where he stands in the eyes of the team until the start of training camp. At that point, assuming Jonathan Cooper is ready to practice, we’ll get a much better handle on the guard depth chart. Cooper seemingly would be the guy to move into the top spot if Garnett is on the outs. I suspect we’ll see a rotation at the position, in which case, we’ll be left to wait and see what the first preseason game depth chart looks like.
I would not be at all surprised to see the 49ers trade one of Cooper or Garnett. Both are capable of handling a starting role in the NFL, and teams are perpetually on the hunt for offensive line help. A cut could be the end result, but it would not surprise me if one of the two is unloaded by the time Week 1 of the regular season rolls around. We can speculate all we want right now, but we won’t really have a firm handle on this until late July or early August.